Commentary on Accountability
— or lack thereof, in several places
This story SCREAMS off the pages of the newspaper — read me! This episode is all about Accountability! Or lack of…enough to go around.
A local physician may have infected hundreds of trusting patients. The facts are still not clear. (If the allegations published in NEWSDAY and set forth by public officials are true, shouldn’t he have known better than to re-use syringes…let’s see, how long have the HIV – AIDS – contaminated blood stories been published or broadcast?)
And it took New York State and Nassau County health officials three years to obtain the facts and then “negotiate a settlement?” Sending letters back and forth in the mail? Threats of subpoenas…except there is wariness a judge may throw the case out? Exactly who is being protected here? (Not patients, in our view.) And long (and obviously patient) negotiation with the doc vs. censure and intervention and legal or regulatory action? It seems a good number of highly-qualified professionals forget what public trust and accountability is really all about, doesn’t it?
It takes four months for the state to translate a list of patients to a computer system? Ask the family members — they would have typed the names in a weekend. (Oh, forgot about HIPPA — gotta protect everyone’s privacy, right?)
And speaking of that,thanks to the crusading journalists at NEWSDAY who wouldn’t give up, we know the name of the physician — at first, these unaccountable overseers in key regulatory positions wouldn’t reveal “who” was injecting patients with dirty needles.
For a pathetic view of medical and healthcare oversight in this great state of NY, take a look at the timeline in the story above. Vigilant nurse (thank you! to those on the front lines in our hospitals and clinics) spots patients from doctor’s office (December 2004 — 36 months ago). The state Department of Health visits and watches doc at work. Five months later, 98 letters go out to patients who may have been infected. Four years later, thanks to official inaction, now 628 letters must go out — how would you feel if you were one of the patients receiving such a letter, or a family member? Would you feel really good now about government oversight of critical health issues?
Every American deserves legal representation and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. But what kind of legal system allows stonewalling when patients’ lives may be at stake? (Would you entertain lawyer’s letters or responses while patients may be getting a needle that may be carrying Hepatitis B or C or HIV?)
A lot of un-accountability to go around here. Let’s see what State Senator Kemp Hannon’s hearings yield. And with the DoH under the governor’s supervision, can we call on Governor Eliot Spitzer — he of crusading AG fame — to intervene forcefully to make sure this process is never repeated with other medical issues…
These are the kinds of incidents and behaviors that inspired us to create Accountability Central…as famed Judge Louis Brandeis said a century ago…”Sunshine is the Best Dis-infectant!”
Editor – AC
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